Your Money and Your Life: Digging into Money Attitudes

by Justin Weinger
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Putting together a budget can be an important part of starting your life together as newlyweds. However, once you start this process, you might be surprised to learn that it is not always just about your income and how much you are spending or saving. Dealing with money can be an emotional process with associations that can be hard to understand without digging into your own experiences and family attitudes about money. Before you get to the cold hard facts of budgeting, there are other types of conversations you need to have first.

Money and Your Family of Origin

How your parents felt about money and what they did or didn’t teach you about finances will play a part in conversations about budgeting even if you don’t realize it. Therefore, a good place to start is with your family’s attitude about financial issues when you were growing up. There are a few things to talk about when you have this conversation.

Were your parents on the same page about money, or did it cause a lot of tension in your family? Were they spenders or savers? Did your family live comfortably, or was it always a struggle to make ends meet? Were your parents always in debt? Did they teach you to be responsible with your finances, or did you have to learn on your own? How do these types of discussions make you feel? Do you have strong emotions associated with money that you could trace back to your family of origin? For example, if seeing a partner spend a lot makes you feel anxious, it could be because one parent was financially irresponsible and your family suffered as a result.

Your Financial Situation

You should also talk about your joint and individual financial situation. This should be done nonjudgmentally and with an eye to problem solving. For example, if one of you has credit card debt, talk about ways you could reduce it, such as rolling it onto a new card with a lower interest rate. One or both of you might also be paying off student loan debt. You may be able to reduce your monthly expenses and cut months off your debt payments by refinancing with a private lender. In all, you might pay less in the long run than if you stayed with your current payment plan.

Your Future

The next phase is to talk about your future. Again, it is important during this conversation that you both feel your views are respected. It might turn out that one of you is a saver and one is a spender, but this can be resolved with compromise as long as you are both thoughtful about the other person’s position. You should discuss what you want to do with the money that you make, whether it is saving for a home or buying something extravagant, like a speedboat. You should also talk about how you will pay for expenses, whether you will have shared or joint accounts and perhaps even whether a postnuptial agreement might be a good idea.

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